Category Archives: Personal

100 days later 

For the past 93 days I’ve participated in #The100DayProject put on by The Great Discontent on Instagram. My Insta feed is over there somewhere 👉. 

I’ve been learning to watercolor, and it’s been awesome! I’ve even done a few paintings that are actually good. 

When I finished the first draft of my novel last year, I fell into the deep depressing pit of not knowing what to do next. I’ve decided not to let that happen when the 100 Day Project ends next week. I need to line up a new challenge before this one ends. It doesn’t have to be a 100 day thing, but 21 days is not nearly long enough for me to build a true habit, AND I don’t want to think about standing at the edge of the Abyss of Not Knowing again for a good while, AND I kinda sorta have an idea for NaNoWriMo so this needs to carry me until November 1. 

So. Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with. If you have something better, please comment!

100 memories — do I want to focus on the past? 
100 quotes from awesome people, books, songs. Other people are pretty cool. It’d be a curating thing. 

#100happydays — can I choose to be happy (I can choose. But can I actually make it happen?) for 100 days in a row? That’s an awful lot of happiness. 

100 hopes and dreams for the future. I’m not good at saying what I want. Often it’s because I don’t even consider what I would like; I tend to think only about what someone else might want. Sometimes I do know what I’d like, even one hundred things I would like— like a cat, and a bicycle with a basket on the front, and a flat above a bakery in the south of France— but I shy away from speaking them out loud for fear of ridicule or rejection. Dumb, right? 

Was that a dumb question?

100 questions. I’m not always good at asking questions. I ask, but often they’re the wrong questions. I assume. I put words in your mouth. I ask if you feel a certain way, rather than simply, “How do you feel?” I pitch my view by the way my question is worded. So maybe 100 days of practicing asking questions, and thinking of really good ones, would be a smart way to build better habits.

100 days of word play. I do love a good play on words. 

100 snippets of my own poetry, possibly illustrated. I could even watercolor some of them. 

100 bits of micro fiction. Maybe 100 paragraphs of one story. Or a hundred 100-word stories? That would be epic.

Punk says 100 dreams for the future sounds too hard, so I’m kind of gravitating toward that one— not to be rebellious, but I want a challenge! Because if it’s easy, what’s the point? 

Was that a good question? 

What would you do?

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Lucid Nightmare

I have a recurring dream. In it, someone I love and should be able to trust does something horrible. The worst part is, this person thinks it’s fine and has no qualms about having done it. Moreover, s/he keeps talking and talking about it. Just won’t shut up.

I hate this dream.

Only last time I had it, about a week ago, the dream changed. Everything went as usual until the part where I normally wake up. This time, I stayed in it long enough to speak up for myself. I simply said, “This is wrong and it hurts me.” Usually in the dream, my mom sits by my refrigerator giving me a reproachful look. But this time when she turned to look at me, she wasn’t my mom. She was ME. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I smiled at myself.

I think the initial dream has to do with my lack of trust. I don’t feel I can count on those close to me to make wise, moral decisions. I cannot trust them to take my feelings into account. I see that maybe they don’t know any better, but it hurts just the same. And of course, dear old mom is standing by ready to disapprove.

But with the new twist, I feel like I stood up for myself. I said plainly that what was going on was harmful to me. I advocated for myself. The other person’s behavior didn’t change, but mine did. I woke up just as emotional as ever, but with a more positive charge to it because I had done something different. And instead of looking to my mother, I was looking to myself for approval.

It feels like a turning point.

My son has practiced lucid dreaming for over a year now. He gave me some pointers on how to know when I’m in the dream. He says while I’m awake I need to practice noticing something in the dream, so when I’m asleep and see the object, I can check my lucidity. His example was if I see a bird fly overhead, I can count my fingers. If I count only two fingers, I’ll know I’m dreaming. so I’ve been thinking about sticking my arm through the refrigerator door. If I can do it, I’ll know I’m in the dream.

So what will I say or do next time? I know I can’t change the other person’s behavior. I probably can’t change my own trust issues overnight, either. But what can I change?

What would you do? Have you ever tried to control your dreams or had a lucid dream? Did it work?

Daily prompt: Nightmare

10 ways to optimize Google searches

Recently an entrepreneur told me he needed to find one hundred pieces of quality content for his company’s new blog. 

“Piece of cake,” I said. 
“WHAT?!?” He was totally skeptical, which surprised me. I thought everyone knew how to do a google search. 
Anyway, he asked for a few pointers. I presented him with these 10 search term strategies. 
I’m happy to report he found the stellar content he was searching for. Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for, too.
Before getting to the 10 strategies for better Google searches, make a list (mental or written) of what you hope to find. Writers’ lists should include genres, topics, poetry formats, word lengths, etc. My most recent search was for watercolors and included search terms related to paints, papers, and name brands of watercolor suppliers.
Two keys: Be general. Be specific. They sound like opposites, I know. But you’ve got to use terminology everyone in your field uses, AND get specific about which aspect of the industry you want more info about.
Then add the following:
1. Use words like best, top, five stars. 
2. Use superlatives in your field. If you’re searching for cleaning products, use search words like cleanest. Musician? Try rockin‘. (Fo realz.) 
3. Put 2015 in the search bar, or since it’s early in the year, 2014. Eliminate obsolete answers from outdated websites. 
4. Get specific. Looking for guitars? Use brand names like Fender or types like acoustic, bass, etc. 
5. Enter the name of a specific item + “review.” Benefit from others’ experiences by reading reviews. (Bonus: “review” is an especially handy search word for writers since so many literary journals have the word in their title!)
6. Type in “how to” + whatever you’re interested in. 
“How to dissect frog’s eye.” 
“How to clean grout.” 
“How to Coldplay Clocks bass line.” 
(Note: search terms DO NOT have to be complete sentences or even make sense. Google, or whichever search engine you’re using, looks for the words, not necessarily the order of the words. Also, fillers like “a” or “the” are unnecessary.)
7. Look for magazines, newspapers and journals related to your search. I often search “flash fiction villanelle horror journal submission” or such like. Not pretty, but it works.
8. Subscribe to relevant websites, blogs, podcasts. Links will be abundant. FOLLOW THE RABBIT.
9. Subscribe to newsletters. Read with an eye for new search terms, especially buzzwords specific to your topic. Our church recently latched onto the term “missional communities.” After a few titillating laughs with Punk, I searched the term and realized it’s a thing. A Christian thing. Who knew?
10. Speaking of knew. NEW. If vague search terms give you blah results, adding the word “new” can occasionally perk things up.
What are you searching for? How can I help you search smarter?

Blue Magic

We are moving.

So instead of writing, or blogging, or even just being, I have been decluttering, packing, and donating many carloads of memorabilia.

Mom probably thought she was doing me a favor by giving me boxes upon boxes of old photos, notebooks, report cards and train stubs. But it’s been an emotional few weeks going through closets full of who I used to be.

Today I found a couple of old stories. One was written at the tender age of 8, in which I imagined (a tad over-enthusiastically) that my sister had been eaten by a tiger at the zoo.

Another, written at age 10, had me envisioning a poor helpless witch who discovers a blue potion and snoops around to find out how its creator activated it. She says the magic words and finds her home transformed into a cute, clean cottage, and transported to a much nicer village “where everyone knows each other and says hello to one another.”

It’s good to know I am still that 10 year old girl. Loves blue. Loves magic. Dreams of a cute, clean, small home in a friendly neighborhood.

This was in my drafts folder from May 2014. Not sure why I never hit publish then! But it makes me happy that I was a writer even way back when I didn’t know it yet.

FYI, we ended up not moving. How’s that for an anticlimactic ending? =)

How to write the world’s worst LinkedIn profile summary

 

After 14 years on the bench, I’m considering it might be time to get back in the game of working for pay. (Crap. Did anyone else hear horror movie music just now?)

Back in the day I had some cool jobs. Daycare teacher, hand model, bus driver, chair aerobics instructor. I moved to New York in the 90s— who didn’t, right?— where I found my inner Joan Harris in advertising, talent management and “administrative assistance.”

That was the 90s, people. The last job I held in NY, I did things with Excel spreadsheets that would explode your shoulder pads. But do those even exist any more? No idea.

I’ve had more recent freelance jobs, made some cash here and there writing, designing, even taking pictures of cars. But putting together my LinkedIn profile over the past week, it feels like what I have to offer isn’t really marketable. The things I do, I don’t have formal training for. No years of professional experience. Most of my connections are stay at home moms.

And then there’s the summary, LinkedIn’s version of a bio.

Ugh.

You know why I hardly ever submit stories anywhere? Because everybody wants a bio. And I hate talking about myself. People who talk about themselves are arrogant, annoying a-holes. Why would anyone want to hire an arrogant, annoying a-hole?

Not only are you supposed to brag about yourself, you should do it using as many words as possible. Experts say a long winded diatribe fully fleshed out summary makes potential clients and employers take notice. The more you talk up your abilities and attributes the more people will want to know you.

A fool is known by his multitude of words, I say. (Oh wait, King Solomon said that. I’ll just go add “plagiarism” to my skill set.)

These same experts also say to be yourself. MY self? There is no long version of me. Brevity excites and challenges me. I love chopping work up into tiny bits almost as much as I enjoy getting it all on paper in the first place.

I thought I’d read some other people’s summaries for ideas. It’d be funny if it weren’t so boring. Every man and his dog is “ambitious” and “detail oriented,” a “team player” “recognized in his field” for “outstanding achievement.”

Snooze. Él Snoozerino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. If I were looking to hire, I’d bench all these guys. Maybe hire their dogs.

All I really want to say is:

I write my brains out, work my butt off and pour my heart into everything I do. How may I serve you?